August 25, 2014

Health roundup: Salt, aspirin and new hope for the paralyzed

No need to cut back on salt: New study claims most people don't need to lower amount they eat

A large international study questions the conventional wisdom that most people should cut back on salt, suggesting that the amount most folks consume is OK for heart health — and too little may be as bad as too much. The findings came under immediate attack by other scientists.

Limiting salt is still important for people with high blood pressure — and in fact, a second study estimates that too much sodium contributes to up to 1.65 million deaths each year  The first study's leader, Dr. Salim Yusuf of McMaster University's Population Health Research Institute in Hamilton, Ontario, urged keeping an open mind….Yusuf's study is observational, rather than a strict experiment, and has big limitations in its methods. But its size lends strength — more than 100,000 people in 17 countries, the largest on this topic. It's also from a general population, not just people at high risk of heart disease, as many past studies have been.

Everyday drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen could help treat depression after scientists found inflammation may influence mental illness.

A study at Cambridge University suggest that the immune system plays an important role in mental health by ‘cranking’ up the body’s responses and increasing the risk of subsequent mental illness.  But inflammation-fighting drugs could provide a readily-available, safe and affordable alternative treatment.

Overweight women with breast cancer 'could halve the risk of the disease coming back' by taking aspirin regularly

Scientists hailed the study as encouraging because overweight women are more at risk of breast cancer coming back than those of a healthy weight.  Their research suggests the humble painkiller may cut by 50 per cent the chances of recurrence and also leads to a ‘sizable delay’ of two years before it does.

Diabetes drug that could help us all live longer: Doctors say it could also stave off cancer

A drug widely prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes could help us all live longer, a study says.  Research suggests metformin, which controls glucose levels, may also stave off cardiovascular disease and cancer – whether someone has diabetes or not.
Scientists who studied more than 180,000 people found a ‘small but statistically significant improvement in survival’ in those taking metformin, compared with those given older anti-diabetic drugs and a group without diabetes.

New hope for the paralyzed.  Hope for stroke victims after radical stem cell treatment enables patients to move and talk again

Stroke patients have shown remarkable signs of recovery after they were given a radical new treatment.  Five people who had suffered severe strokes regained the power of speech, use of their arms and legs and improved cognition after just six months, according to British research published today.

The three men and two women, aged between 45 and 75, were treated with stem cells extracted from their own bone marrow in the first experiment of its kind.  The treatment, developed by scientists at Imperial College in London, is thought to be so effective because it triggers the rapid regeneration of brain cells that are damaged during a stroke.

Scientists cautioned that the new treatment is at a very early stage, and said it needs to be tested on thousands more people before it can be declared a complete success, but they said the results show great potential to revolutionize life for stroke patients.

New hope for paralyzed patients: Scientists grow links between spinal cord and the brain for the first time

Spinal injury victims left paralyzed have been offered new hope of walking again thanks to a breakthrough in stem cell science.
U.S. scientists have regrown spinal cord neurons from a patient’s own cells for the first time.
Implanting the cells in rats, they found that the neurons caused the animals’ nervous systems to rewire the spinal cord and brain.
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Currently, there is no way to treat spinal injuries once connections between the neurons are lost, resulting in connections between the brain and the body being cut off.

Professor Tuszynski said : ‘Earlier work has shown that grafted stem cells reprogrammed to become neurons can, in fact, form new, functional circuits across an injury site, with the treated animals experiencing some restored ability to move affected limbs.’
However, he warned that further tests to find out how best to graft stem cells and cure paralysis could take ‘months to years’.
He also said that experts should be cautious when conducting a human trial in the future.
‘The enormous outgrowth of axons [verve fibres] to many regions of the spinal cord and even deeply into the brain raises questions of possible harmful side effects if axons are mistargeted.
Posted by Jill Fallon at August 25, 2014 11:13 AM | Permalink